Nikon Coolpix P330

The P330 delivers good images in a pocketable, easy-to-use package, though processing times may annoy power users.

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Lexy spent her formative years taking a lot of photos and dreaming in technicolour. Nothing much has changed now she's covering all things photography related for CNET.

Design and features

Nikon's latest entry into the advanced compact camera space sits head and shoulders above the previous P-series cameras in this class. While the P330 might look identical to its predecessor, the P310, there are several notable differences inside.

Key changes include a 1/1.7-inch backlit CMOS sensor, which puts it in the same league as other larger-than-average compacts from Pentax, Canon and Samsung. Nikon has reduced the resolution to 12.2 megapixels, which is something we respect greatly, especially as so many other manufacturers keep pushing for more. It's the same sensor that appeared in the P7700.

After waiting patiently through several iterations, photographers finally get RAW capture on the P-series. The P330 also comes with a built-in ND filter and a 3-inch, 921,000-dot LCD screen.

Another new feature is active mode, which helps to compensate for camera shake when the photographer is moving or walking. The mode dial at the top of the camera gives access to full manual exposure controls, while a built-in GPS is useful for travellers to track photo locations. There is no built-in Wi-Fi with this camera, though it is compatible with the (optional extra) WU-1a that allows for photo and video transfer to mobile devices.

The lens is a 5x optical zoom unit at 24mm wide-angle, with a fast maximum aperture of f/1.8. However, it stops down rather dramatically to f/5.6 at the longest end of the focal-length range — something that's not unusual in cameras of this class.

Full HD video recording is available at 1080/50i/25p, 720/25p, 480/25p or 540/25p (iFrame). There are also a few slow motion modes that play back at 1/4, 1/2 or double speed at reduced resolutions.

Controls on the P330 are simple, but effective. The rear four-way directional pad doubles as a control wheel for jogging through options in menus and adjusting the aperture when in manual mode. The top wheel just near the shutter button adjusts shutter speed. On the mode dial itself, there is a night landscape option, plus the choice of scene selections. These include backlighting, pet portrait, panorama, food, museum, sunset and portrait modes, among many others.

One thing we did notice about playing with the P330 and adjusting settings from the menus is that there was a very slight delay or lag. It's not a big deal, but feels a little sluggish compared to previous Nikon compacts we've tested.

Connectivity is via HDMI or USB out.

Compared to

P330 vs competitors
Sony Cyber-shot RX100 Nikon P330 Canon PowerShot S110 Pentax MX-1
20.2-megapixel CMOS sensor (1-inch) 12.2-megapixel backlit CMOS sensor (1/1.7-inch) 12.1-megapixel high sensitivity CMOS sensor (1/1.7-inch) 12-megapixel backlit-CMOS sensor (1/1.7-inch)
3-inch, 1.2-million-dot (VGA resolution) LCD 3-inch, 920,000-dot LCD 3-inch, 461,000-dot touchscreen LCD 3-inch, 920,000-dot tilting LCD
3.6x optical zoom, 28mm wide angle 5x optical zoom, 24mm wide angle 5x optical zoom, 24mm wide angle 4x optical zoom, 28mm wide angle
Aperture range f/1.8-4.9 Aperture range f/1.8-5.6 Aperture range f/2.0-5.9 Aperture range f/1.8-2.5
Full HD video (AVCHD/MP4, 1080p) Full HD video (H.264, 1080p) Full HD video (H.264, 1080p) Full HD video (H.264, 1080p)


General shooting metrics (in seconds)

  • Start-up to first shot
  • JPEG shot-to-shot
  • RAW shot-to-shot
  • Shutter lag
    Panasonic Lumix LX7
    Samsung EX2F
  • 2.2260.3
    Nikon P330
    Pentax MX-1
  • 2.5110.1
    Sony RX100

(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Continuous shooting speed (in seconds)

  • 11
    Panasonic LX7
  • 10
    Samsung EX2F
  • 8
    Sony RX100
  • 5.1
    Nikon P330
  • 4.5
    Pentax MX-1

(Longer bars indicate better performance)

The P330 has a range of continuous shooting modes. The measurement above was taken in the highest speed mode, which snaps 10 JPEG shots in a row before stopping to process them. There is a pre-shooting cache mode, as well as a 120fps or 60fps mode, which takes photos at 1-megapixel resolution. Nikon's best scene selector (BSS) also makes an appearance here, with the camera automatically choosing the best frame from a burst of photos. Interval timer mode is available for time-lapse purposes.

Autofocus performance is accurate, though it takes a little time for the camera to get there, more so than on competing cameras in this class. Low-light shooting exacerbates this quite a lot. It's also worth noting that the P330's RAW processing is incredibly slow, which might mean that you will miss the next shot as you wait for the camera to finish writing the file to the SD card.

Nikon rates the battery at 200 shots.

Image quality

Overall, the P330 delivers good images, vastly superior to those produced by its predecessors.

Colours are vibrant and true-to-life, while the lens is able to resolve quite a lot of detail. In automatic modes, however, the P330 has a tendency to overexpose, which results in blown out highlights. Turning on the Active D-Light feature helps mitigate this a little, but we still suggest checking the histogram and reviewing shots on the screen just to double-check.

A comparison between the RAW and JPEG performance of the P330. As you can see there's a slight amount of distortion correction to JPEG images, as well as quite a bit of sharpening. We prefer the slightly softer, but more vibrant results from the RAW image.
(Credit: CBSi)

The P330 has particularly good macro performance, able to focus as close as 3cm to a subject. Resulting shots are sharp and show a great amount of detail.

Night landscape mode takes 4 shots in quick succession and merges them together in-camera for a shot with reduced noise. You will need to hold the camera relatively steady though, otherwise camera shake will still be an issue.

The lens shows some quite prominent barrel distortions when shooting at the widest end, which is to be expected. Small corrections are applied to compensate for this distortion when shooting JPEG. Chromatic aberrations exhibit themselves as purple halos around areas of high contrast, particularly noticeable when inspecting images at full magnification.

The P330 performs reasonably well throughout the ISO range, with coloured noise only starting to creep in at ISO 800. There are some visible artefacts from over-processing when inspecting images at 100 per cent magnification, at all ISO levels, though the original RAW images are a lot cleaner. If only it was more snappy to shoot in RAW, we'd recommend this over JPEG.

Video quality from the P330 is good, with a crisp image and smooth movement when shooting in 1080p. The internal stereo microphones do produced slightly muted sound, even though they are located on the top panel of the camera. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be any way to change the recording level either in the menu system. Users have the option between AF-S (fixed autofocus) or AF-F (continuous autofocus) when recording.

Image samples

Exposure: 1/160, f/3.7, ISO 80

Exposure: 1/60, f/4, ISO 125

Exposure: 1/8, f/2.2, ISO 800

Exposure: 1/1000, f/2.5, ISO 800

(Credit: CBSi)


The P330 delivers good images in a pocketable, easy-to-use package, though processing times may annoy power users. We applaud Nikon for being able to upgrade the physical size of the sensor without increasing the pocketable nature of the P330. The new sensor has greatly improved the image quality compared to previous iterations.

Hopefully a future firmware update will address the slow RAW processing times.

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